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Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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Why Do Anti-Immigrants Favor Protectionism?


Okay, I get it: President Trump and his acolytes favor immigration controls because they don’t want people from s***hole countries coming into the United States. What doesn’t makes any sense is why they also favor tariffs, sanctions, embargoes, and other trade restrictions against those s***h countries. After all, by increasing economic misery in those countries, such measures only encourage more people from those countries to come to the United States, the exact opposite of what anti-immigrants want.

Let’s consider Mexico, for example. I don’t know if Trump meant to include Mexico among his list of s***hole countries but clearly Mexicans are among those immigrants that the anti-immigration crowd wants to stop from coming into the United States.

Such being the case, wouldn’t it be better for economic conditions to improve in Mexico to such a great extent that Mexicans no longer have the incentive to come to the United States to work?

Indeed, we often hear that sentiment from the anti-immigration crowd: “Why don’t they just stay home and work instead of coming here?”

Well, the answer is: Because they can make a lot more money up here than they can down there. For example, if a Mexican can earn $6 an hour up here compared to $6 a day down there, he has a powerful economic incentive to leave his home, his family, and his country to come up here and work.

But what if the difference is, say, $7 an hour up here versus $5 an hour down there? Then the decision to emigrate becomes more difficult. Is the extra $2 an hour worth leaving his home, his family, and his country, especially since abuse inevitably accompanies the job here in the United States?

Tariffs, sanctions, embargoes, and other protectionist measures make economic conditions in the targeted country worse than they already are. At the risk of belaboring the obvious, that increases the incentive for people to leave the targeted country and come to the United States, the exact opposite of what the anti-immigration crowd wants.

From the standpoint of libertarianism, the ideal is completely open borders — i.e., free trade and open immigration. I understand why the anti-immigration crowd embraces immigration controls — they don’t want the immigrants to come to the United States. For the life of me though, I don’t understand why many of them also embrace protective tariffs, sanctions, embargoes, and other economic protectionism since that results in the exact opposite of what they wish to achieve.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.